Wise feed equipment investments today will prepare your mill for the uncertain regulatory, production landscape of 2030
In the next decade, the global food system will not only be under more pressure to feed the world, it will also further be called to reduce its environmental footprint, running leaner, cleaner and more transparently than ever before. As a key player in the value chain, feed producers will do more with less to achieve the goals of their downstream customers. Here, the overall efficiency of the feed mill is critical.
Wayne Cooper, feed industry consultant with Anderson Feed Technology, shares his thoughts on the ways feed mills of all sizes can fortify their operation against the changes and challenges of tomorrow.
Transcription of Feed Strategy Chat with Wayne Cooper, feed industry consultant
Jackie Roembke, editor in chief, WATT Feed Brands/Feed Strategy: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I’m your host, Jackie Roembke, editor in chief of WATT Feed Brands and Feed Strategy magazine.
This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedStrategy.com. FeedStrategy.com is your source for the latest news and leading-edge analysis of the global animal feed industry.
Today we’re joined on Zoom by Wayne Cooper, a feed industry consultant with Anderson Feed Technology. He’s here to examine the challenges feed manufacturers face and the technologies they should invest in to prepare for the next decade of production.
Hi, Wayne, how are you today?
Wayne Cooper, feed industry consultant, Anderson Feed Technology: I’m great. It’s fine weather here in Iowa. And we finally got some rain. So we’re looking good.
Roembke: Excellent. Glad to hear it. Well, let’s get right into it. So when you’re in the field, evaluating feed mills, which areas of production are most commonly due for improvement?
Cooper: We see a variety of areas, we really do, depending on the mill that we walk into, but most often, I would start with automation because I get surprised when I see a mill that’s operating and, yes, it’s automated, but the automation is 10 years old or more. And it’s not giving them all of the information they could be using.
The other area that I look at consistently is pelleting. We do a horrible job of operating our pelleters on average. There are exceptions, but we’re usually not running them at peak efficiency.
Roembke: What strategies or technologies can feed mills implement to improve their energy efficiency?
Cooper: I’m gonna hammer on automation a lot today. I really am. I apologize up front. But if we really use the automation that’s available and look at how it’s running our equipment, that is a major energy savings.
And it’s just running the mill as efficiently as possible, all the time. Not running at two-thirds capacity, because we have time today. Run it at full capacity, 100%, all the time, then shut it down for two hours if you don’t have anything to do, but keep it operating. That’s the most energy efficient way there is to operate a mill.
The others, for the entire company. Keep that middle as close as you can to your corn source and to the animals. Reduce your transport.
There’s an old saying that the best place to operate and build a feed mill is at the end of the cornfield, across the road from the farm where the animals are. That still holds true. And with $5 and $6 fuel, it’s critical.
Roembke: After making these investments, what kinds of gains can the feed mills expect to experience?
Cooper: It depends on the particular process, but you get right down to your huge energy consumption items — that’s grinding, pelleting and so on. Keep those machines as efficient as possible, and your automation can give you 5% to 10% return by telling you when those items need maintenance and whether they’re operating efficiently.
Again, peak efficiency, all the time.
Roembke: Very good. Do you think companies should keep the changing regulatory environment in mind when purchasing new equipment?
Cooper: That’s an easy one to answer. … It’s a big fat yes, OK. But I would like them to go even farther than that. Because I think they should take a look at the environment, in their mill, around their mill around their neighbors.
I see mills that are constantly having problems with their neighbors, even lawsuits because of their emissions, their noise, their dust, though all of those things are no longer necessary. We’ve been in mills, recently, as recently as June, and from 200 feet outside the mill, you can’t tell the mill was operating. There was no dust, there was no noise, all of those things can be controlled if we’re willing to do it.
Roembke: Interesting. So kind of in the same vein, are there specific technologies on your radar that you think significantly changed the way for you to manufacture?
Cooper: Yes, there are. There are pelleters that are highly efficient, as in 30% more efficient than the ones we’re currently using.
We can do better maintenance to control how we run the equipment. There are some things that we’re looking at where we’re trying to reduce the energy usage by processing the feed differently. It’s a different process than what you’re used to. The feed is going to be a slightly different form. So it’s going to take some time to get it accepted, but we think it’s going operate well for the animal with the better feed conversion with less energy at the feed mill.
Roembke: What advice would you give small and midsize mills for planning for the next decade of production?
Cooper: I think they have to remember that their feed mills are going to be a specialized process.
You do not want to — particularly when planning or rebuilding a feed mill — you don’t want to do the same thing that’s been done over the last 40 years. It’s a different process now. It’s got to be targeted for your clients and the specific feeds that their animals need. That’s the major thing I would tell them at this point.
Roembke: Excellent. Thank you so much for those insights. If you’d like to know a little bit more about some of the things that Wayne was talking about here today, visit Anderson Feed Technology at www.andersonfeedtech.com and check out its “feed mill health check” for insight into where things can be improved. Thank you so much, Wayne, and thanks to you for tuning in.
Cooper: You bet. Thank you appreciate your time.
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